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updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

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Is Delta's focus on Alaska 'just business' or something that has long been unacceptable?

As the awareness grows of Delta Airlines' increasingly obvious designs on the business of Alaska Air, it's intriguing to see that while a majority in the business community are quickly becoming protective of what they view as their hometown airline, there are some who have said to me: "it's just business."

When I did my first column on this issue in December, suggesting that the once beneficial relationship Delta and Alaska had was turning predatory, a number of proponents of the free-market system found themselves agonizing a bit before most sided with my viewpoint.  

John Fluke, an outspoken proponent of the notion of free markets and competition, was sophisticated enough to quickly distinguish between the concept of competing to win, necessary to the success of our economic system, and competition with the goal of driving out competitors.

Fluke, and others like him I have talked to over the weeks of seeking to test viewpoints and plumb attitudes, noted that the key to the acceptability of a competitive approach is the question: "Does it benefit the customers?"

Strategies aimed at driving out competitors have been unacceptable since the dawn of the last century when that great advocate of competition, President Theodore Roosevelt, took the Sherman Anti-trust Act as a bludgeon against corporations that sought to win by gobbling up or driving out competitors.

I decided to do a bit of research on that law that became Teddy Roosevelt's tool in busting trusts and learned that the law declared illegal "all combinations in restraint of trade."

As one explanation put it: "The law directs itself not against conduct which is competitive, even severely so, but against conduct which unfairly tends to destroy competition itself."

So is it in the spirit of competition that Delta would seek to extends its service to, for example, Alaska cities that offer one airline marginal income and offer two airlines only red ink?

Maybe, on the issue of Delta seeking to convince the University of Washington to take Delta's money in exchange for becoming Delta's travel partner. But that's a possible development that hopefully UW's regents would deem counterproductive for the university in the longer-term goal of building allegiances rather than divisiveness.

It has occurred to me that the quest by this community's leadership in seeking to determine whether the possible eventual demise of Alaska through takeover or acquisition would be good or bad for the community would be served by asking those who have been there.

Thus the idea I have been talking up is for a group of business and community leaders to set a meeting with their peers in Minneapolis-St. Paul, which once had its own hometown airline, Northwest, which was absorbed by Delta.

In fact, a city-to-city visit of Seattle-area leaders with their peers in Minneapolis-St.Paul could explore more issues than just air service, since the two regions have long shared economic roots and similarities.

It was almost exactly seven years ago, April 15, 2008, that Delta and Northwest merged to form the largest airline in the world. Has the merged airline that resulted benefitted the Twin Cities? Has it resulted in little change (other than the loss of jobs that Northwest represented to the region)? Or significant?

Might be worth finding out, guided by a recollection of philosopher-poet George Santayana's oft-recalled (and oft-misquoted): "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

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Dan Evans' leadership role in resettlement of Vietnam refugees 40 years ago recalled

As Vietnamese refugees huddled by the thousands in processing centers in this country in the days following the fall of South Vietnam 40 years ago this month, then-Gov. Dan Evans made Washington the first state to extend a welcome to an eventual several thousand refugees in what was undoubtedly one of the state's finest hours.

Now the outreach and leadership role Evans played are being celebrated next Monday evening at Kane Hall at the University of Washington with a 40-minute screening of the Academy-Award nominated Last Days in Vietnam.The screening will be followed by a conversation including Evans and Ralph Munro, later the long-term Washington Secretary of State but then an intern in Evans' office who was dispatched to Camp Pendleton, CA, the West Coast processing center for the refugees.

Ralph Munro with Vietnamese refugees at Camp Pendleton 

It was in April of 1975, with the North Vietnamese army closing in on Saigon, that the 5,000 remaining Americans hurried to get out. And because of the 11th-hour bravery of some Americans, 135,000 South Vietnamese managed to escape and many made their way to processing centers in the U.S., including Camp Pendleton.

Munro remembers viewing the sprawling tent-camp for the refugees, meeting with some of them, then meeting with the Camp Pendleton base commander, who asked: "Do you want these people?" Munro says he responded "Yes. I think we do."

 

Munro recalls that Washington's interest in caring for the immigrants came about when Evans heard that California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown made it clear he was not going to permit the Vietnam refugees to be received into his state.

 

So Evans dispatched Munro to California with the admonition, "If you see that S.O.B. (and he didn't abbreviate the profanity, though Evans was never known to swear) Brown, remind him what it says on the face of the Statue of Liberty."

 

Munro recalls his first view at Camp Pendleton of the refugee encampment: "The sun was starting to set and I came over this hill and I just saw thousands of tents."

 

Once he connected with the refugees at their camp, Munro got on a loudspeaker and offered that those who wanted to do so could come to Washington and many quickly stepped forward.

Evans laughs "a lot of them probably thought they were going to Washington, D.C."

While the transit of the refugees was being arranged, Evans' office was contacting churches, community groups and people who might work with a single family. "We found more volunteers than we could handle," he said in a phone interview.

So the first 500 began making their way to Seattle, then 1,500, and on May 8, 1975, Evans personally carried a letter to President Gerald ford formally advising him that the state was agreeing to be involved in the resettlement effort.  

Evans recalls that President Ford soon created the Presidential Commission on Refugees "and we were able to bring the commission the experience we had with the refugees and that helped create the methodology for dealing with the refugees."

He notes that ironically, despite Jerry Brown's desire to keep the Vietnamese refugees out of his state, today California, along with Texas and Washington, are the three states with the largest population of Vietnamese.

So that Monday evening gathering, sponsored by KCTS9 and the Seattle Times, will wind up with a community recognition of Evans and the role he played.

But Dan and Nancy Evans' personal story within the broader story of outreach to the Vietnamese is perhaps even more compelling than the welcome of the eventual 1,500 refugees to a new life and newopportunity in this state.

Evans recalls one family they came in contact with when they went to visit the refugees at Camp Murrray, the state's National Guard headquarters south of Tacoma. It was the Nguyen family, husband, pregnant wife and their five children.

When the sixth child was born, they named him Evans in honor of the governor whose state welcomed them.

"We got to know the family and followed them and saw their focus on education for their children," Evans recalls. "The outcome was the first five were all valedictorians of their high school classes."

"Then as we waited for the invitation to Evans' graduation and none came, we contacted the parents and learned that they were reluctant to invite us because he was not the valedictorian," Evans chucked. "But he was in the top 10 in his class."

Evans recalls that there were two shrines in the Nguyen house. "One was a religious shrine," said Evans. "The other one was in the living room where six UW graduation certificates were displayed."

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For Galloway, interviews with Vietnam veterans are revisiting that war's memories, emotions

 

 It was 50 years ago this month that Joseph L. (Joe) Galloway arrived in Vietnam as a 23-year-old reporter for United Press International and stayed to become perhaps the best-known war correspondent of his time with his book and the movie it spawned detailing his involvement in what may have been the defining battle of that war.

Joe Galloway 

Now Joe Galloway is revisiting that war in memory and emotion as he travels the country interviewing veterans of that conflict as part of a 50-year Vietnam Commemoration, not celebrating the war but those who fought there.

Galloway has been in Seattle this week conducting a series of interviews at Q13 Fox, which made its facilities available for the interviews, 60- to 90-minute videos that Galloway hopes will be "the body of material for future generations who want to know what this war was all about."

Speaking of the more than 100 interviews he has done around the country, beginning with a video interview with Colin Powell, Galloway says he thinks the veterans are sharing their memories and feelings "because we are 50 years down the road and if they are going to tell their stories, they had better tell them now."

"Since we are in the twilight of our lives, they want to leave the truth of their experience," he added.

"They are not bitter but I am bitter in their behalf. It make me angry that those who came to hate the war came to hate the warriors who were their sons and daughters."

Galloway is a fan of soldiers, and even some generals, but can't find a politician he can muster regard, or even respect, for. Certainly not Lyndon Johnson and his defense secretary Robert McNamara nor those who guided the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars for whom "the lessons of Vietnam were lost, forgotten or never learned."

He refers to McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld, defense secretary for George W. Bush as "the evil twins of the 20th Century," but adds "the deepest part of hell is reserved for Henry Kissinger. He convinced (President Richard) Nixon to bomb Cambodia for no good reason and eventually millions of Cambodians died because of what the U.S. put in play there."

 

It was in early November of 1965, six months after his arrival, that Galloway found himself covering, and participating in, the first battle of the war between U.S. Army and North Vietnamese regulars at a place called the Ia Drang Valley, a battle that Galloway later wrote "changed the war suddenly and dramatically."

It was during the Ia Drang battle that Galloway rescued two wounded soldiers and later was decorated for his heroism. And after coverage of subsequent wars, he was praised by the late Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf as "the soldiers' reporter" because of his caring and regard for those whose battles he covered.

The Vietnam War Commemoration, of which Galloway's interviews are a part, is aimed at spurring events and activities in states, cities and towns around the country to recognize Vietnam Veterans and their families for service and sacrifice.

 

 Specifically, the mission of the United States of American Vietnam War Commemoration  is to "assist a grateful Nation in thanking and honoring its Vietnam War Veterans and their families, the fallen, the wounded, those who were held as Prisoners of War, and those still listed as 'unaccounted for."   

 

Referring to the growing number of interviewees he has taped, Galloway said "almost every one of them gets emotional and I get emotional with them."

Galloway's first interviewee of this week, Seattle attorney Karl Ege, touched on the emotional aspect when he told me later "It's the loss of so many men (and eight women) who never had a chance to live full, complete lives - for no reason whatsoever - that is the true tragedy of Vietnam. And that's what brings Galloway and me (and so many other Vietnam veterans) to tears."

Ege told Galloway during the interview that "the dishonor of that war for me came when the objective turned to 'how many did we kill?' rather than some strategic or political objective."

He recalled a battle in September 1966 in Quang Tri Province near the DMZ when his outnumbered Marine battalion repelled a larger unit of North Vietnamese with relatively few Marine casualties.

He recalled for Galloway: "A Colonel from a rear echelon unit arrived after the fighting ended and asked 'you fired a lot of artillery Lieutenant; how many did you kill?' I was stunned by the question. Told him I had no idea, and we were not going into the jungle to see how many casualties we could find.  'Don't get smart with me, Lieutenant. I need a number,' the Colonel pressed. I said 'what would you say if I told you 325 as a made up number?' 'Don't get smart with me, Lieutenant,' he said as he walked away."

"Shortly thereafter Stars and Stripes reported that the Marines killed 325 North Vietnamese in an encounter near the DMZ," Ege said.

"Vietnam strikes a raw nerve with most veterans, mainly because of the loss of so many (58,220 dead, 150,000 physically wounded, 2-plus million who served and have internal scars) for what was at the end of the day, a 'fool's errand,'" Ege emailed me after his interview.

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Environmental scientist turned full-time mom drawing attention for blended-learning model

 

When Kathryn E. Kelly, an environmental toxicologist with a global reputation and clientele, decided to step away from business for a time to home school her two adopted foreign-born sons, she wound up honing an education model that is now drawing as much attention as her science role did.  

Ironically, it was her deciding she wanted to be a mom that guided Kelly to a new career as an education innovator as she adopted 6-year-old Nicolay from Kazakhstan in 2003 and Sasha, then age four, in 2006 from the same Central Asian nation so "Kolya" would have a brother.

Kathryn Kelly with Sasha and Kolya 

Kelly, a Stanford graduate who earned her PhD at Columbia, didn't create the concept of "blended-learning." But in the Incline Village, NV, community where she moved to raise her sons, she has implemented it in a way that has attracted attention from other communities, who want her to show them how to do it, and even other countries.  

Kelly has a quick explanation of what has happened since she created eLearning Café in 2011 as an innovative internet café with computers, chairs for relaxing conversation and an opportunity for drop-ins to take courses in person or online, or to offer instruction.

"When you let students be in control of their learning, great things result, whether retaking a class, looking for advanced academic opportunities or just expanding personal horizons," Kelly said. Her premise has been "the one-size-fits-all model of current education did not fit my sons or anyone else I knew, from special-needs kids to profoundly gifted ones."

Kelly, whom I first met in the late '80s when she headed her own Seattle-based environmental firm and we served on the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Board together, had closed her Seattle company, keeping some key clients for personal attention, and moved to Tahoe, where her family had a summer home when she was growing up. She wanted a friendly environment for her kids and began home schooling first one son, then two, and learning the challenges of that process.

She recalls that the first donor who walked in the door while she and friends were still painting the cafe prior to opening was a retired Green Beret who had "heard about what we were doing as he engaged one of our board members in conversation while having a glass of wine the previous night," Kelly recalls with a smile. "He handed me a Costco card so we could get some things we needed."

Soon former teachers began wandering into the café for coffee, conversation, and offering to teach various classes for the face-time portion of the blended-learning offerings, a concept described as "the effective use of education technology to transform the learning experience for students." She explains that blended-learning courses involve 30 to 70 percent of the instruction delivered online.

And the "face-to-face" instruction has also sometimes taken on an Internet flavor as she explains "We have Skyped with our students from Japan to New Zealand to Chile to Spain."

"We have been gratified to attract seasoned teachers who love that they have the freedom to be with kids all day and not stuck in meetings and paperwork," said Kelly, noting "Our math teacher, for example, has been teaching so long that she owns calculus.net domain name and can teach anything from 4th grade special needs to Calculus and computer programs."  

Kelly quickly put together an advisory board for eLearning Cafes, Inc., including reaching out to WSU President Emeritus Sam Smith, one of the founders of Western Governors University, where she got her Master of Education degree soon after founding eLearning Café.

Within two years of its founding, eLearning Cafes, Inc., was attracting national attention and winning awards. Kelly was a speaker at various blended-learning conferences and in 2013 and 2014 was honored with a prestigious Top-Rated Award from Great Nonprofits, a national organization that recognizes the best of nonprofits based on user reviews.

But eLearning Cafes, which she describes as a big, beautiful, community learning space, has now metamorphosed into what she has named iSchool, standing for "individualized school," to reflect the move of the community learning center to a formal school that she proudly says she patterned after WGU.

"There was clearly a pressing need to help kids who have not finished high school for various reasons so we turned it into a school, although I miss the community learning center part where students of all ages, from 4 to 94, came to learn everything imaginable - and from each other," she said.

Kelly has become a speaker sought after by education-focused groups who would like to bring the iSchool concept to their regions and at blended-learning conferences. And she has hosted visitorsfrom Texas, and recently from China.

Kelly has another important Washington State tie that came into play when she created iSchool. It was turning to Washington State's 34-year-old Alger Learning Center and Independence High School, State approved and nationally accredited independent school, serving students in grades K-12, as well as adult learners.

ISchool's students get their diplomas from Independence High School since Nevada law doesn't recognize her school.

When I asked her about the costs of operating iSchool, said replied: We operate on a budget of $240,000 to cover primarily rent, teacher salaries, and course materials.  As a non-profit, grants and donations allow us to provide scholarships to all who need them and also test new evidence-based learning strategies."

"We did not set out to become a school," Kelly says of the transition from eLearning to iSchool. But she smiles about her takeoff on Microsoft's early '90s campaign theme of "Where do you want to go today," explaining her successful philosophy of education: "We basically ask the kids 'What do you want to learn today?'"

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Social Venture Partners founding president Paul Shoemaker decides to turn a new page

When Paul Shoemaker agreed 17 years ago to be the first president of Social Venture Partners (SVP), it was a time when hundreds of suddenly wealthy Microsoft employees were retiring young and taking their newfound mantra of "if you have it you share it" into the community.

 

Thus it was that dozens of Microsofties were ready to seize the opportunity that would be created when SVP founder Paul Brainard, the father of desktop publishing who had sold his Aldus Corp. and turned to philanthropy, convinced Shoemaker to leave his position as Microsoft group manager for worldwide operations to head SVP.

Paul Shoemaker 

That 1998 luncheon meeting where Brainard made his pitch to Shoemaker came a few months after more than 130 potential contributors met with Brainard, Shoemaker and a couple of other high-tech leaders to found SVP as a kind of donor's circle, as it was once described. The partnership was set up with each member "investing" at least $5,000.

 

What followed, under Shoemaker's guidance, was the growth well beyond that Microsoft nucleus into what soon became a 501c3 focused on philanthropic investments. Today SVP is the world's largest network of engaged philanthropists and over the years the partners have invested not just dollars but volunteer hours in the non-profits they focused on.

 

SVP has spread not only to 39 cities across the country but in the past couple of years has reached into nations on four continents, including Asia with a launch first in India, then Japan, Australia, Korea and China.

 

Now shoemaker has announced that he will be stepping down from the position that his business card and the SVP website simply describe as Executive Connector, transitioning out over the next three to five months as the board looks for a successor.

Shoemaker's successor will assume leadership of an organization that has grown to 550 members in the Seattle area and more than 4,000 globally. Each partner now antes up $6,000 for the investment pool.

 

SVP website indicates members have collectively given more than $15 million to King County nonprofits and that money was stretched farther by the tens of thousandsof volunteer hours given by SVP Partners.

 

This number multiplies when looking across SVP's international network.  Since SVP's inception, the partners across the country and internationally have collectively given more than $54 million and "countless volunteer hours."

 

Shoemaker, who will remain on the board of the SVP International Network, says there will be "more to come" for international growth as he will be taking the initiative to focus on bringing SVP to Latin America this fall.

 

Shoemaker says that not only is SVP's impact becoming global, but "partners and investors are reaching for more positive change than ever, with exploration into impact investing and deeper diversity, equity and inclusion work."

 

Moving into impact investing, which SVP is exploring and which will be a key agenda item next fall when SVP's international conference will be held in Seattle again for the first time in a number of years, would add a different factor to SVP philanthropic investing.

 

Impact investing brings financial returns into consideration alongside social and environmental impact since the investments are in for-profit entities. Shoemaker says SVP involvement in impact investing, and how to go about it, is still to be determined. But he notes that "a lot of partners are already into impact investing on their own."

 

"Impact investing is where the action is," Shoemaker said. I asked him about B Corp investing and he said "I don't know if B Corp companies are an up or down trend but I think they are here to stay, sort of becoming more on the radar."

 

B Corp companies, a corporate legal status permitted in a number of states including Washington, allow for a higher purpose than shareholder value, permitting companies' decisions to go beyond maximizing financial results to include positive social or environmental impact.

 

I asked Shoemaker if it was fair to say that SVP could only have been launched in Seattle and only because of the giveback focus of those young Microsofties.

"I'm not sure about that, he replied. "But it was surely the best time and place to have created SVP."

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Delta Airlines' Dog-Gone Disaster and CEO's 'PR tailspin' on Mid-east airlines merit sharing

 

It's coming to be known as Delta's Dog-Gone Disaster. It's the tale of the plight of the distraught family whose dog was lost on a Delta Airlines flight out of Los Angeles last fall, and the more than 200,000-plus supporters who have petitioned Delta via the website
change.org to take responsibility in some manner.

 

It's a story that suggests Delta CEO Dick Anderson may need to spend more time keeping his eye on his own company rather than eyeing someone else's airline, as in his acknowledged coveting of Seattle's hometown airline, Alaska.

Apparently it's not a unique case of doggie disasters at the world's second largest airline, an airline that may have grown too large for the CEO to be personally bothered by such things as worrying about a lost family member of customers (since a family member is how a pet is viewed by most owners). One blogger has even referred to Delta as "The Bermuda Triangle of Dog Travel."

Not flying on Delta would be a logical response for pet owners as a statement for the airline to step up, take responsibility, and figure out how to improve its pet-care performance. And every dog lover should insist on an apology, and not from some underling but from CEO Anderson himself.

I checked on change.org, which I hadn't been aware of, to ensure the site is legitimate and here's what I learned:
Created in 2007 by a then-32 year old NYU law school dropout named Ben Rattray, change.orghas become one of the largest sites on the web for anyone seeking to pressure politicians, corporations or others with what the web company describes as "a public shame campaign." It's a certified B Corporation with a stated mission to "empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see." 

  

Rattray says that "with cynicism about government at an all-time high," he can keep growing by keeping the stories personal. The petitions that catch fire on

Change.org are almost always tied to human drama, and so it is with Frank Romano and his family, whose dog, Ty, disappeared on the Delta flight from Los Angeles to Tampa, where the family was moving. 

 

Here is a bit of the story of Ty's disappearance, from the

change.org website, as written by the family. 

 

"Ty had been checked by our vet and transported in an airline approved-crate. Delta confirmed everything was in order prior to assuming responsibility for Ty. When we said our goodbyes to Ty, his tail wagging, we never imagined it would be for the last time.

"Prior to takeoff, a Delta employee approached Frank and took him aside to tell him that Delta couldn't find Ty. Our son was confused and horrified listening to Delta's story.

 

One minute Delta had the dog, and the next he was gone. They claimed there were no witnesses. Eventually Delta would state Ty had 'compromised the kennel on his own.'  

 

"When we got the crate back there were no bite marks, scratches, or other damage inside that would corroborate Delta's story. All we found was a crack on the outside of the kennel that wasn't there when Delta checked Ty into their custody.  

   

"After Delta lost a member of our family all we asked for was help searching for Ty. Delta denied our requests in helping provide resources for the search effort. Instead, we had to rely on many kind-hearted volunteers who spent weeks searching, putting up posters, and talking to people in the area," the family wrote.

More than 211,000 people, and counting, have signed the petition for the Romano family's plea: "Please join us in calling on Delta to release their official report, apologize to our family, and put in place a plan to prevent future pets from being lost. Please sign and share our petition today."

 

Others who do blogs and have pets, are tuning in to Delta's doggie dilemma, including by friend Al Davis, a widely respected turnaround expert, who does a blog on various business issues.

He is planning a blog offering Delta some advice on customer service and corporate culture, something the onetime Intel general manager knows a thing or two about, on which Delta apparently could use some guidance.

Meanwhile, I can find nothing to indicate that Anderson has offered the distraught family any sort of apology himself. But that reluctance apparently would fit with Anderson's pattern.

And since a key reason for this column is to give readers a sense of the kind of leader the guy is who would like to turn his airline into Seattle's "hometown airline," and a bit about the character of the airline he guides, another, perhaps more dramatic, example of Anderson's unwillingness to take responsibility is the recent gaffe related the Middle East.

That example of his apparent "I don't personally apologize" approach came after his recent statements, what CNN described as a "clumsy comment" that was more like a mix of ignorance and arrogance, in which he seemed to link Gulf-based air carriers with the 9/11 terrorist attack. The apology for what CNN described as a Delta "PR tailspin," came not from Anderson himself but from "a Delta spokesperson."

Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar airlines, offered perhaps the most appropriate put down for Anderson over the comments he made, which were in connection with his effort to kill the Ex-Im Bank that is so important to Boeing. For those not familiar with it, the Export-Import Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States with the mission of ensuring that U.S. Companies have access to the financing they need to turn export opportunities into sales, as in sales to Middle East airlines.

Al Baker said on CNN that the Delta chief "should be ashamed to bring up the issue of terrorism to try to cover his inefficiency in running an airline. Mr. Anderson should be doing his job improving and competing with us instead of just crying wolf for his shortcomings in the way his airline is run."

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Juno and Omeros: What a difference a year makes in image of state biotech industry

A year ago Washington's biotech industry was beset by the major image hit of the departure of Amgen and the death rattle of once high-flying Dendreon. But the industry's image in this state has shifted in 2015 with positive national attention from analysts, market watchers and investors being focused on a pair of Washington companies, Juno Therapeutics and Omeros Corp.

And the companies themselves have nearly opposite stories. Juno, founded by four MDs and two PhDs less than two years ago and taken public near the end of 2014, was the Nasdaq's biggest biotech IPO of the year, while Greg Demopulos, M.D., founder and CEO of Omeros, jokes that his company has taken 20 years to become an overnight sensation.

Greg Demopulos 

Juno brought together innovative technologies from some of the world's major research institutions, including Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in a technology that genetically engineers T-cells to recognize and kill cancer. That caught the biopharma-investment world in a storm of upbeat reaction.

The "overnight sensation" that Demopulos refers to for Omeros is the first FDA-approved product for use in eye surgery. It's called Omidria, which Omeros is on the verge of launching, that will provide ophthalmologists a product that is FDA-approved, proven sterile and safe, and reimbursable by payers. One analyst observed that physicians should soon be using it as standard of care.

Juno's key executives are already on the health care-conference trail this month, with CEO Hans Bishop presenting this week in Boston at the Cowen and Company annual Health Care Conference, and CFO Steve Harr., M.D., presenting next week in Miami at the 2015 Barclays Global Healthcare Conference.

Juno's IPO debuted the company at $24 a share, with the price soaring 60 percent the first day before closing at $35. The stock has been as high as $61 a share since then but is trading in the mid-$40s this week. Juno raised $265 million from the offering after already having raised $314 million in venture capital investments over the prior year.

Juno's growth has already created a bridge of sorts from the Amgen-Dendreon down period to this year's uptick in the image and fortunes of the state's biotech industry as Juno has been hiring some of Amgen's and Dendreon's former key employees.

Whereas Juno's rise to prominence made the company virtually an overnight success, the path for Omeros has been more challenged, but suddenly equally eye catching for analysts and investors as the stock has jumped from just under $12 per share at the end of October to just over $25 at the beginning of this week. Some analysts are now suggesting the stock will climb to $38 per share.

This is the company that was tabbed by one analyst, after its $10 per share IPO was followed within days by a 38 percent per-share drop, as the "worst performer of all the 42 companies that have gone public in the U.S. this year."  

The reason for the current excitement over Omeros is the debut of Omidria, which is used during cataract surgery and lense replacement to dilate pupils and prevent pain, replacing a solution that eye surgeons presently must order from drug compounders but is not reimbursable and is described as "a highly inefficient and risky way to treat your patients."

"The FDA approval of Omidria is the first of what we expect will be a long line of product approvals for Omeros given our deep pipeline of products, many of which are currently in clinical trials," said Demopulos.

Indeed a second visibility bump for Omeros happened in late 2014 with the second drug in the company's pipeline, positive results from phase 2 trial of a drug called OMS721. The drug would basically address some orphan diseases like Atypical Hemolytic-uremic Syndrome, a disease that primarily causes abnormal blood clots in the kidneys.

But Demopulos is candid in discussing, during the interview last week, the years of challenge he faced in building the company.

"Right now we are considered a company on its way to success, but it took a long time to get to this point," Demopulos said.

"There were a number of times when the company was significantly at risk of not succeeding. You come to a wall and you can't see around it, under it or over it, but you just have to persevere and somehow you end up on the other side of the wall."

Addressing the challenge of successfully building a biotech company in Washington State, Demopulos said it might have been easier to start his company in the Bay Area but that he felt committed to this area. But he singles out the need for the state to take a leadership role if the road to biotech success is to be made easier.

"In order to create a strong biotech community in this state, some things cleary need be done, including restoring the r&d tax credit," Demopulos said. "If we can put that benefit back in place, then we can begin to recruit biotech companies to the Northwest to make it easier to attract talent to the region."

"Currently it's difficult to attract talent, given that there are fewer biotech companies in the Northwest," he said. "Employees coming to the region have concern about future lateral mobility."

"And we don't have a formal life science or biotech initiative like Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Massachusetts where multi-billion dollar biotech initiatives contribute to the ability to establish companies in those states," he added. "At Omeros, we are trying to support that sort of initiative by putting together a fund, in cooperation with Life Science Discovery Fund and Vulcan to use our profits to spin out biotech startups."

"But if we are really interested in building a biopharmaceutical-Life science industry in this state, then the state has to be willing to provide funding and tax incentives," he said. "It isn't a giveaway program, but rather one with an outcome that's been proven in other states where the benefits are high-paying jobs and additional revenue to the state. But it has to be done in substantial measure or it will likely fail."

Demopulos named his company after his father, Greek orthodox priest The Very Rev. Dr. Alexander Homer Demopulos, known to his flock as Father Homer, who died in 1993, a year prior to the launch of Omeros.

The name for his company (Omeros is Homer in Greek) was not only appropriate recognition of his father's role in his life, it was also ironically appropriate for the path Omeros has followed. Like the ancient Greek hero Odysseus, whose wanderings after the Trojan War the ancient Greek poet Homer immortalized in his epic poem The Odyssey, Omeros had a series of "wanderings" leading up to its 20th anniversary last June and the breakthrough that followed.

And Demopulos is clear that Omeros won't become another promising Washington biotech firm lost to merger or acquisition.

"We have no interest in being acquired," he emphasized. "If that had been part of our plan for the future, we would have built the company in a different way."

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Legislative disinterest in funding assist for life science industry troubling to many

(Editor's noteThis is the first of a two-part series on the state's life science/biopharmaceutical industry with this first article dealing with the challenges of getting the state to provide the financial tools necessary to grow the industry. The second article will deal with a couple of newly emerging companies that will help carry the hopes for the future of the sector in Washington.)

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The apparent legislative disinterest in the state having a financial role in the future of Washington's life science industry isn't a fatal flaw for what has become the nation's sixth largest biopharma cluster. But it will send the wrong signal to biotech entrepreneurs and investors elsewhere in the country and will inevitably mean some startups won't make it across the early-funding challenge that's known as "the valley of death."

 

"Legislative disinterest" means the very real possibility that the 2015 Legislature may turn its back on key funding for startups, who represent the seeds that grow into players and job creators in the industry, by declining to keep the innovative Life Science Discovery Fund (LSDF) alive.

 

If LSDF, created to foster growth of the state's life science sector, went out of existence on its 10th anniversary because the Legislature decided not to fund it anymore, It would represent an ironic measure of the legislature's lack of commitment to the future of that industry in Washington.

 

Key states around the country are going to great financial lengths in their funding commitments to life science, both to foster growth of that industry within those states and also to send "come join us" messages to biotech innovators and investors elsewhere in the country.

 

LSDF was established in 2005 by then-Gov. Christine Gregoire and the state Legislature to guide investment dollars from the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement into research and development grants to entities that demonstrate the strongest potential for delivering health and economic returns to the state.

 

It was only the intervention of Gov. Jay Inslee, a key proponent of a strong life-sciences sector, that saved LSDF at the end of the 2014 legislative session, but he couldn't prevent the demise of the research & development credit against the state sales and business & occupation taxes.

 

The R&D credit expired at the end of 2014. More than 2,000 companies had used the credit against the B&O tax since it was instituted in 1994, and about 400 have used the sales tax credit. The lost revenues through 2012 totaled about $950 million, but the investment the credits generated came to about $8 billion, and repaid the state several times over in overall tax collections, according to industry sources.

Chris Rivera
WBBA president.

Washington is now is on a short list of companies that don't offer R&D tax credits, and perhaps the only state on that short list that actually hopes to see its life sciences fortunes be an important component of economic success.

 

The budget Inslee has submitted to the Legislature would make a $20 million investment for LSDF and re-establish a $70 million Research and Development Tax Credit program with the governor telling the life sciences industry he is "a strong supporter of the R&D tax credit and sales tax deferral."

 

To be sure, the industry, guided by the Washington Biotech and Biomedical Association and its president, Chris Rivera, himself a former biotech CEO, have friends in Olympia in addition to the governor.

 

But the myopic among lawmakers will point to this region's sixth-largest life sciences ranking and say "well, things are obviously going pretty well for us."

 

The fact that the Seattle area ranks third among cluster-cities in the total of NIH dollars, at $142 million for the most recent year calculated, is viewed as reflecting the fact the region is anchored more by academic and independent research institutions than by local companies.

 

In fact, those academic-independent institutions, like the Gates Foundation, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, PATH, Institute for Systems Biology and the University of Washington may well be the most prestigious collection of industry research players in the country.

 

But the startups spun out of those institutions need conventional financial support to become full-blown businesses and that has been a challenge for companies in this state.

 

And from a competitive-clusters standpoint, the fact that two of the cluster cities above Seattle on the list are in California, with San Diego third and the Bay Area a far-ahead number one, is something that the lawmakers and policy makers need to be continually focused on.

 

Indeed nothing points up the importance of competitive awareness than the experience of Chris Rivera himself.

 

Rivera recalls that when he sought advice on launching a biotech firm in Seattle that would focus on orphan diseases "I told a key industry leader I needed space, talent and money. The response was 'you won't find those here.'

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So having been involved with firms in Boston and the Bay Area before moving to Seattle in the mid-80s, he headed for California where, in 2005 in South San Francisco, he launched Hyperion Therapeutics, a specialty biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of therapies for gastroenterology and hepatology diseases.  

 

Rivera guided his company through the usual ebbs and flows of early growth challenges, including downsizing when the IPO market dried up. He stepped down in 2008 as the company prepared for what turned out to be successful Phase II trials and a $69 million funding in June of 2009 in one of the largest VC raises that year. Hyperion went public in 2012. He remains an investor in the company, but it is a growing Bay Area firm, not the Seattle-area firm it might have been.

 

Thus it wasn't surprising that when the WBBA executive committee went looking for a new president in late 2008, they lured Rivera back to Seattle with one of his goals being to create a strategy to help keep companies in Washington.  

 

"I think we've done a pretty good job of achieving that," he says.

 

Success for Washington's life science industry often seems a matter of two steps forward and two steps back, despite the best efforts of WBBA, whose strategies include a successful mentor program for entrepreneurs.

 

There was some of both forward and back in 2014. The steps back were the departure Amgen, taking with it the jobs of more than 600 biotech employees, and the demise of once-high-flying Dendreon, which had more than 700 employees, leaving perhaps the largest number of jobless biotech employees ever in this area.

 

But the steps forward were the emergence of Juno Therapeutics, a company less than two years old that surged into an IPO in late 2014, and the surge in interest for Omeros Corp., whose CEO Greg Demopulos jokes that it has taken his company 20 years to become an overnight success.

 

Ironically, the hiring mode for Juno, which develops immunotherapy treatments for cancer and has had remarkable results in small clinical trials, has benefitted from the availability of former Amgen and Dendreon employees.

 

Omeros, a Seattle-based biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing small-molecule and protein therapeutics for large-market as well as a variety of orphan indications, has become the best biotech story of 2015 and we will take a look next week at the company that celebrated its 20th anniversary last June.

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Desert retirees bring zeal of their business roles to their non-profit involvements

A visit to the desert inevitably provides the sunshine Seattleites crave. But sometimes the sunshine takes a more personal form, shining from the satisfactions of those whose desert retirement has brought commitments to causes far different than the business world where many made substantial marks.

So it was recently, during a week of relaxation with Betsy at the home of life-long friends Steve and Dolores Kent in the Coachella Valley, that I took time for visits with Stuart and Helen Anderson of Black Angus fame and Roger Eigsti, chairman and CEO during the '90s of one of Seattle's largest public companies.  

Helen and Stuart Anderson 

They were among half a dozen Northwest folks I met with for lunch or coffee while in the desert, but Helen and Roger provided particularly memorable visits because they are involved, with the same intensity they brought to business, in causes I hadn't been familiar with before.

I have visited with Helen and Stu Anderson each of the last several years after getting to know them at an event for Northwest Snowbirds that I put on for the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, which they attended.  

Roger Eigsti 

Stuart Anderson is now 92 and seeking to find more ways to sell his book, Corporate Cowboy, which he decided to write after "I woke up following my 90th birthday bash and asked myself, 'what do I do now?'"

Helen's special cause, Umbrella Ministries, receives part of the proceeds from sales of the book, which details his successes and mistakes from the launch of his first Stuart Anderson's Black Angus restaurant in Seattle on April 1, 1964, through its dramatic growth and national recognition over the following quarter century.

Umbrella Ministries, a Palm Springs-based non-denominational ministry "with the sole mission to offer comfort, hope, and encouragement to mothers who have suffered the loss of a child," has been Helen Anderson's full-time focus since she joined the board in 2003 and helped move the ministry from a church tie-in to 501c3 status.

Eigsti's community commitment is with a most unusual "community" and represents one of two key investments that Eigsti, who stepped down as chairman and CEO of Safeco Corp. at the end of 2000, tends to in his Palm Springs, area retirement.

One of Eigsti's investments, Kirkland-based traffic data company Inrix with rapidly growing prospects relating to traffic-control technologies and innovations, is traditional and he serves as both a key investor and a board member. Time is Eigsti's key investment in his other focus: a prison ministries organization called Kairos.

The Florida-based 501c3 brings volunteers into a Christian-based process of connecting with inmates with the key involvement being three-day weekend interactions between the volunteers and the inmates. Kairos operates in more than 300 prisons internationally, including in 33 states.

But none of the prisons is a stiffer test than Calipatria State Prison, a 90-minute bus ride for Eigsti and other volunteers from the Coachella Valley. Eigsti explained that Calipatria is a level 4prison, the highest-security facility in the state, with most of its inmates serving life sentences, most frequently for murder.

"The crime for which they are sent to Calipatria usually occurs while they are still teenagers and they pay for it the rest of their lives," said Eigsti, who began volunteering about a year ago. "Very few ever get paroled and if they do at some point, there are no jobs for them, since very few have graduated from high school."

"Most of these men had no father or other male role models to follow," he said. "Many haven't received a letter in years, if ever, and some have never had a visitor come to see them."

"To see the smiles on their faces and be on the end of hardy hugs from the prisoners makes my day. It's so rewarding," he added.

For Helen and her involvement with Umbrella Ministries, her special contribution is unique sterling silver bracelets for the 50-60 new moms who come to the organization each year.

"My bracelets are my special project," she said. "If I get a sponsor, and so far God has sent us one each year, we buy each child's name, with individual sterling silver pieces for each letter in the name. Then we can let the moms design their own bracelet."

The ministry has done more for me than I can ever do for the organization," she said.

Helen, 15 years younger than Stuart, went to work in 1973 as Anderson's administrative assistant at a time when the chain encompassed 13 restaurants and had recently been acquired by Saga Foods, which kept Stuart on as CEO. They married nine years later and she helped guide the growth of the company until it was acquired by Marriott in 1987 and the Anderson's departed to ranching in the Ellensburg, Wa.,area.

And as for Stuart's book, among many recollections are when John Wayne came calling at Anderson's camper in the Baja one day because the actor wanted to look around for ideas for his movie-set trailer. Anderson recalls that they learned both were from Iowa and both had gone to USC.

"I asked him to teach me his walk, which always made him laugh," Anderson recalls. "But he somehow knew I was the steak man."

But Anderson was also a ranch man and the book details how he built his sprawling cattle ranch West of Ellensburg, ending up with 2,600 deeded acres and 22,000 leased acres on which to grow the cattle to provide steaks to satisfy the needs of his restaurants. But he notes that "the scope of the need for beef quickly became too large" so the ranch became a visitor venue and an outside supplier provide the beef.

In four of the last five years before his retirement, USA Today'sand Restaurant & Institutions' selected Stuart Anderson's Black Angus restaurants as the nation's number one full-service restaurant chain.

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Abe Bergman has mixed pediatrics, 'political medicine,' to benefit kids for half a century

Abraham (Abe) Bergman, M.D., a respected pediatrician and pediatrics professor in Seattle for more than 50 years, had a second practice over all those years that he refers to as "political medicine," which frequently found him twisting arms of state and national lawmakers for kids-related issues. Now he has a new cause that is painfully close to him: to build new community facilities to house the mentally ill.

Bergman, who retired as chief of pediatrics at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center in 2002, is seeking to have the 2015 Legislature clear the way to include construction of facilities for mentally ill housing in the capital construction budget the lawmakers pass each biennium.

Dr. Abraham (Abe) Bergman 

Bergman, who practiced pediatrics at Children's Hospital for 20 years and Harborview for 30 in addition to teaching at the UW Medical School, thinks the time is right for his proposal for several reasons.

An obvious one is a State Supreme Court ruling last year making the practice of warehousing mentally ill patients in hospital emergency rooms due to a lack of available treatment space illegal.

That ruling dramatically complicated the processes in place in the state mental health system and forces the Legislature to confront the question of how to deal with the longstanding dilemma of the impact budget cuts have had on the availability of mental-health treatment space.

But a decision immediately after the ruling by the Medicare and Medicaid Services to allow Washington State to use Medicaid dollars to pay for services in what are officially called Institutes for Mental Diseases may be another boost to Bergman's campaign. That decision would allow qualified non-profits to provide services in the facilities that he would like to see built with state capital construction bonds.

He candidly admits his interest "has been piqued" by having a 19 year old, one of three children from the Russian Far East that he and his wife adopted in the late '90s and early 2000s, "who has been at the intersection of the criminal justice and mental health systems for the past two years."

"The problem is visible everywhere in society," Bergman said. "People who are psychotic are walking around on the streets. Jails are full of people with mental illness and there is no place, no supportive housing, where these people who are a danger to themselves and others can go."

 

Bergman points as a possible model to a long-standing program in Maryland that provides for capital grants to non-profits or county or municipal corporations for from $100,000 to $2 million per project to construct buildings to provide services to individuals with development disabilities, mental illness or addiction.

"I feel there's a glimmer of hope now for the Legislature to consider this because, after talking with several legislators, it seems possible partisan swords will be sheathed, partly because there are certain issues, like child welfare, that have always been exempt from partisanship and this may well be one," Bergman said.

"The neat thing about my proposal is that most construction costs can be covered by the sale of bonds (in the capital budget) and funds to operate the programs can come mostly from Medicaid," he added. "So it's not a budget breaker."

Bergman notes that his plan, now being considered by the House budget committee, doesn't necessarily need passage of a bill to implement, but rather could merely be inserted directly into the capital budget itself.

I've been watching Bergman, now 82, practice his "political medicine" for more than 40 years, since we first connected in 1973 after the death of our infant, Sarah, who was a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Bergman and another young physician, Bruce Beckwith, were, for nearly a decade, the first contacts for Seattle-area parents whose infants had died unexpectedly and unexplainedly from what was long referred to as "crib death."

It was on behalf of those lost infants and their grieving parents that Bergman had already successfully guided a national campaign that led to research efforts to explain the sudden deaths and changed thoughtless and heartless medical and law enforcement practices. And their national efforts gave what had merely been "crib death" an actual medical name.

It was about the same time, in the mid-'60s, that Bergman also provided a key assist to Washington's Sen. Warren Magnuson in getting Congress to amend the Flammable Fabrics Act to expand its coverage to include foam and other materials used in children's clothing.

But Bergman's activities on behalf of kids extend way beyond mere political activism. He has been engaged for more than a decade leading efforts to improve healthcare for foster children, a campaign that he says is beginning to bring results.

He's been an outspoken advocate of adoptions by retirees, particularly of special-needs children. He became an advocate of retiree adoptions after he and his wife adopted their three youngsters from the Russian Far East.

And another successful campaign of Bergman's on behalf of children with special needs was creation of the Seattle Children's PlayGarden, which he proudly points to as "the only facility of its kind in the country located in a public park."

Bergman was the founding board chair and a key advocate for the PlayGarden when it became a 501c3 in 2003 and the Seattle Parks Department offered the south end of Coleman Playfield as the site for a public-private development. He calls it "the most gratifying project I have ever been involved with."

The annual luncheon on behalf of the PlayGarden, which is described as "improving the lives of chldren with physical or mental disabilities by providing them with full access to a safe indoor/outdoor recreation space and offering programs that improve their potential," is March 27 at the Four Seasons at 12p. 

Bergman once described the rewards of his half century as a pediatrician as satisfying "the passions of my bleeding heart by practicing 'political medicine' on behalf of underserved kids." It's a passion that hasn't abated in his retirement years.  

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Exploring issues of WSU medical school should proceed despite McDermott urging quick end

Washington State's senior congressman has stirred reactions of surprise, disappointment and a bit of irritation for inserting himself, with an op-ed piece in the Seattle Times, into the discussion over a possible new medical school at Washington State University by urging the Legislature to reject the idea.

The University of Washington sits squarely in Rep. Jim McDermott's 7th Congressional District and he has always done an excellent job over his 24 years in Congress of putting the needs of his constituents first. So it's not surprising he would step up to help that important constituent when asked.

But it's unfortunate that McDermott would visibly support UW and his friends there by taking sides on the issue of whether a new WSU medical school should be created, likely to serve large parts of the state whose interests are not McDermott's concern.

There were some in the legislature, including from his own party, who were surprised, and a little miffed, that he would advise them in a high-profile manner on how they should decide an issue that is strictly up to the legislature.  

One staunch UW supporter in the Seattle business community told me "it was inappropriate for McDermott or any member of the state's congressional delegation to turn this into a political issue when it's a state and local issue." He added: "We have an incredible medical school at UW and it will continue to be the mothership, so to speak, whatever develops. A WSU med school won't endanger that and it might make a regional healthcare program stronger."

Really the only question before the 2015 Legislature is whether the lawmakers will set aside a nearly century old law that prevents any state university other than UW from providing a medical education. There is a bill asking the lawmakers to provide some initial funding for WSU's effort, but the major issue to decide is whether or not they clear away the legal impediment that dates to 1917.

In an era when it's become increasingly clear that competition drives innovation and new ways of doing business, it would be difficult to imagine a reason, other than successful lobbying, why the legislature would decline to remove that arcane constraint. That way the discussion about whether or not there should be a second medical school in the state can continue on.

Would competition be damaging to the University of Washington? It's not likely that its status as the 12th best medical school in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's 2013 rankings would be jeopardized with a new WSU medical school in Spokane.

And its ranking as number 8 medical school in the country for receiving grants from the National Institutes of Health at $302 million last year would not likely be seriously impacted. WSU would be going after different grants.

Might UW need to be more attuned to the needs of rural parts of the state for medical care and more doctors? Perhaps, even maybe deciding to turn out more than the 120 graduates a year that has been the limit for a decade.

And as a side note on the issue of competition being potentially damaging, it's worth noting that Stanford University Medical School ranks 4th on that U.S. News list while University of California Medical School in San Francisco a few miles up the freeway is 5th. Now obviously they don't compete for state dollars, since Stanford is private, but they compete strongly for federal dollars and grants.

WSU has been attuned from the outset to seeking to explain how it might address the need throughout Eastern and Central Washington communities for more physicians and has looked for models for community based medical education, and thinks it has found a model in Michigan.

Interestingly, although Michigan's population is nearly 10 million compared to Washington's nearly 7 million, it has five medical schools and enrolled a total of 2,941 medical students to 592 students at UW School of Medicine. That's a difference of 29 students per 100,000 to Nine per 100,000.

And again with respect to the point of competition, it's worth noting that the University of Michigan Medical School was one ahead of UW in the U.S. News ranking, despite, or perhaps because of, its in-state competition.  

And it's competition that stirred the Michigan State University medical school to focus on community-based medical education and become a national leader in that focus. And competitive innovation led MSU to offer degrees in both conventional medicine and osteopathic medicine, making it one of only two medical schools in the nation with that distinction.

McDermott spent much of his op-ed legitimately extolling the virtues of the highly regarded program in which, in the early 1970s, the University of Washington took the bold challenge to train and prepare physicians to care for patients and communities throughout the states of Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (Wyoming joined in 1996). This regional medical education program known as WWAMI (an acronym representing the states it serves) has been the most innovative of what were a number of similar regional medical education and training programs in the country. It's now the last because the centralized model is not what the future holds.

And there have been discussions in Idaho, now shelved for the time being, and currently in Alaska about creating medical schools in those two WWAMI-partner states.  

And as one proponent of the WSU proposal put it to me, "More of WWAMI, even if it were to continue, would give us more of what we've gotten: concentration of health care resources and talent. How does that help our current problem of access and quality of care away from the population hubs?"

An issue that should attract more attention than it has in this discussion is that virtually all of the emerging biotech startups at UW have come out of the medical school, meaning the medical school is a key to what some hope will be a renaissance of the state's biotech industry.  

It's logical to assume the same would be true of WSU, which already has one of the best regarded of the nation's 26 veterinary schools, which is producing some biotech commercialization and would likely seek some innovative medical school partnerships toward commercialization.

Ultimately the challenge the legislature faces is the looming serious healthcare-workforce shortfall, since it's estimated that Washington will need an additional 1,695 primary care physicians in 15 years.

Currently less than 15 percent of this state's applicants to the UW School of Medicine were admitted in 2012-13 to fill the 120 seats allotted for residents of Washington, which ranked 42nd of the 45 states with medical schools in allowing eligible in-state applicants to attend those in-state programs.

And beginning to address that challenge is the forefront issue before the lawmakers. Thus the underlying factor in any decision regarding a WSU medical school is would it help or hinder dealing with the looming physician availability crisis.

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Joe Galloway interviews in Seattle with Vietnam Veterans will help focus on Commemoration

Programs of support for veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq are conscience-manifestations of thanks from a nation. Now there's a growing movement to touch that same national conscience 50 years late to extend a thank you to veterans of the Vietnam War who received a markedly different reception when they returned home. 

The Vietnam War Commemoration, aimed at spurring events and activities in states, cities and towns around the country to recognize Vietnam Veterans and their families for service and sacrifice, has already had one high-visibility event in this state.  

old galloway
Joe Galloway 

But additional local visibility will likely lie ahead as a week-long series of interviews with veterans of the Vietnam War, conducted by Joe Galloway, the Vietnam correspondent whose book and the movie it spawned made him likely the best-known war correspondent of recent times, will take place in April in Seattle. Ideally, other Vietnam Veterans events will emerge to attract additional focus to Galloway's visit and the 50thCommemoration.

The high-visibility event already held was a Commemoration tribute on October 9 that attracted more than 2,500 Vietnam veterans from around the Northwest onto the parade field at JBLM for a salute ceremony, massing of the colors and Keynote speech by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey.The event, conceived by Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, I-Corps commanding general, was only the second Vietnam War Commemoration event at one of the nation's military bases.

Lanza, saying that as he noticed that Vietnam Era veterans were among those enthusiastically welcoming soldiers home from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, said he realized of the Vietnam veterans: "they had never had that" welcome-home reception so he helped create a thank you opportunity.

I'm sure I wasn't alone in having no knowledge of this Vietnam War Commemoration, mandated by Congress in 2008 and launched by presidential order in 2012, until the JBLM event, and even then only as curiosity as I went to the Internet to try to find when the 50th anniversary of Vietnam would be.

Then came an email exchange in November with Galloway, a one-time colleague at United Press International, the wire service for which he covered the Vietnam War. I've written a couple of Flynn's Harp columns on him and he's now among those who receive this column and we exchange emails occasionally.

 

Galloway Advised me that he has a role in the Vietnam War 50thAnniversary Commemorative project, serving as a special consultant to the project run out of the office of the Secretary of Defense, doing oral-history interviews with Vietnam veterans.

In connection with the 50th Anniversary Commemorative, Galloway has been doing three-a-day, two-hour interviews with Vietnam veterans from across the services spectrum, noting he has "65 two-hour interviews in the can now, beginning with Colin Powell and working outward."

"So you should come to Seattle and do interviews," I told Galloway, a Texas boy who as a correspondent was decorated for heroism on the battlefield and praised by the late Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf as "the soldiers' reporter" because of his caring and regard for those whose battles he covered.  

So I wrote two columns in November, the first related to the interviews he's doing around the country and the second about the Battle of Ia Drang, made famous by his book "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young," and the movie produced from it, "We Were Soldiers."  

I got the word a week or so ago that Galloway will be here for a week of interviews April 12-18 and he may have with him retired Army Lt. Gen. Claude M. "Mick" Kicklighter, who is charged with overseeing all aspects of the Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration, and sometimes travels to a location with Galloway.

While Galloway covered both Iraq and Afghanistan, it was his coverage of Vietnam which draws his continued and weighs most heavily on his shoulders and in his thoughts.

Galloway's interviews in Seattle may include Bruce Crandall, the helicopter pilot whose heroism in repeated flights into the death zone of the Ia Drang battlefield to bring supplies and evacuate the wounded that brought him the Medal of Honor, as well as prominent visibility in the movie made from Galloway's book. Crandall has retired to Kitsap County.

"We don't have a big budget and so we'd need a university or something like that to provide space and assistance to do the interviews," Galloway told me.

I quickly touched base with Pam Pearson, the vice president and general manager of KCPQ-13 for help and she readily agreed to provide whatever studio space and technical assistance he needed through the week.

"First time we've ever had a television station as our facility," Galloway enthused.  

In addition, Gloria Fletcher, president of Sound Publishing, which owns and publishes daily and weekly newspapers across the state - many in areas of heavy military concentration - has agreed to help promote Galloway's visit as well as events that may be related to it, and thus provide visibility for companies that may wish to participate in some manner.

This coming Memorial Day is the opener of what Kicklighter has described as the "most active phase" of the 50th Commemoration, which will run to Veterans Day 2017. and finally conclude on Veterans Day 2025.

The goal now, and one that may be contributed to with the Seattle visit, is development of Commemorative Partners, a program designed for federal, state and local communities, veterans' organizations and other nongovernmental organizations to assist in thanking and honoring Vietnam Veterans and their families.  

Commemorative Partners are encouraged to participate in the Commemoration of the Vietnam War by planning and conducting at least two events or activities during that will recognize the Vietnam Veterans and their families' service, valor, and sacrifice.  

Commemorative Partners must commit to conduct at least two events each year during the commemorative period of 2015 - 2017 that will recognize, thank and honor our Vietnam Veterans and their families.

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Six-continent survey of board members says women help boards make better decisions

A study involving more than 100 male and female directors on boards around the globe, aimed at determining the relationship between board effectiveness and the contribution of women directors, has concluded that boards make better decisions when a healthy number of women sit at the table.

Cate Goethals, a University of Washington academic leader who conceived and co-authored the Better Boards Project, says there's a growing sense that the financial crisis of 2008 was in part the result of a sort of "group think" of public-company boards, which are inevitably composed mostly of men.

Goethals, who has created three programs at University of Washington's Foster School of Business to connect women leaders and global business, says that this emerging line of thinking has led to a growing focus on the composition of public-company boards, including legislative involvement in board makeup in some countries.

Goethals, who co-authored the Better Boards Project with Susan Bloch, a management consultant and author of books on management, noted as an example that Europe has seen requirements for quotas of female board members, including France where 40 percent of the directors of boards of certain types of public companies must be female.

"Even in countries like the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Canada where there are no legal requirements, more women are being appointed to boards than ever before," said Goethals.

The study sought to answer a series of questions, including do women contribute differently in the board room, how do they contribute to board effectiveness and why are the numbers of women on boards so low.  

Supporters of greater representation for women on boards of public companies do see improvement and cite several reasons for that.  

For instance, a number of interviewees noted that the presence of female directors has come to be increasingly viewed as a marker of a progressive, forward-looking board. What company wouldn't want that image?

And the report noted that generational shifts and the call for different types of experience are also changing the landscape. An example was the need for a more youthful perspective and savvy with social media and new technology becoming a particularly acute need.

What clearly was a knock on the prevalence of all-male boards was the basic agreement among interviewees that "women provide a much-needed safeguard against group think and rubber-stamping of policy, which continue to hinder board effectiveness."

But noting that women are still joining boards at a slow pace, the report suggested the way boards look at themselves is a key factor in that, including the practice of identifying potential new board members on the basis of "who do we know." Men generally know other male prospects.

Neil McReynolds, who has been in board leadership roles and consulted with CEOs and boards and also been involved in helping boards recruit new board members, says he thinks "a combination of factors" will be necessary to make a difference to bring more diversity to boards.

McReynolds says that he frankly finds it surprising the increase in the number of women on corporate boards has come as slowly as it has, "especially for those companies in consumer products and services where women make a large percentage of purchasing decisions.

"It's going to take investor pressure, outspoken CEO's, active support by executives and board members, and improving the pipeline by making it easy to identify qualified women directors," McReynolds said.

When asked about the ways their boards are seeking to improve, most directors said their boards were doing very little and cited "ineffectual board assessment practices and, to our surprise, an almost complete absence of reviews of the performance of individual directors," the report said.

In an area like Seattle where women business leaders and entrepreneurs have been a prominent part of the business community leadership and non-profit board landscape for years, men, and even some emerging women leaders, might find it difficult to accept that women have faced an uphill battle in getting board slots at public companies.

After all, we have Phyllis Campbell, regional head of JPMorgan Chase and former Washington president of U.S. Bank, currently a member of the board of Alaska Airlines who has served on three other major boards. And Judith Runstad and Deanna Oppenheimer come quickly to mind.  

Runstad is former co-managing partner of Seattle law firm Foster Pepper, a member of several public company boards and prominent in business locally since before Rotary permitted women members. And Oppenheimer, who left Seattle to become head of Barclay's operations in England and now back in Seattle. is a member of several boards nationally.

But Cate says it would be an indication of complacency for those in this area, particularly men, to assume we are somehow ahead of the game in terms of board opportunities for women.

"Washington state is pretty good, with about 20 percent of public company board positions being filled by women," she said. "but the technology industry is almost the reverse, with most boards composed entirely of men. Most are boys clubs, because venture capital firms like dealing with men."

And business prominence apparently doesn't necessarily convert to the kind of business networking that leads to being sought out for public-company board roles when mostly male boards sit around and ponder who should join them.

One who is seeking to change the networking challenge is Janis Machala, an entrepreneur, involved early in the formation of the Seattle's women's angel group called the Seraphs, and in recent years in academic efforts relating to entrepreneurism.

She is setting up a women's CEO roundtable in the Seattle area to boost networking opportunities for female top executives. Presumably, one of the goal is to help each other become more generally visible in the business community.

As Machala puts it, "they need to learn to be the external face for the company."

Susan Preston, a Seattle attorney who actually launched the Seraphs as the first female angel group in the country back in 1999 and has been a entrepreneur in residence for the entrepreneur focused Kauffman Foundation, is in the process of creating an angel fund, which would provide women investors networking opportunity with angel peers.

Machala and others have been circulating the Better Boards report, hoping it will start what she calls "more conscious decisions about board composition" adding, "what's needed is advocacy or women and other diverse populations and not just referrals or board member talks about this."

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State's Business & Occupation tax could get a look from Legislature as new-revenue source

The fact that it will take a two-thirds vote to get any new-tax measure through the state Senate this year could prompt lawmakers to take their first serious look in years at potential new dollars from the business and occupation (B&O) tax, the state's primary source of revenue from business.  

And if that happens, not only might some lawmakers be surprised at the disparity scattered among the nearly 30 categories of the B&O Tax -- Washington's unusual tax on gross receipts -- but it would also emphasize how out of sync the imposition of that tax is with the current-session's legislative mantra of "fairness."

After all, we have House Democratic Leader Ross Hunter, D-Medina, on the record with "when we are done, our tax system should move toward fairness." So lawmakers could decide there's some logical opportunity for new revenue from some of these categories while getting credit for looking to create fairness

Seeking revenue-producing changes in the B&O could be an attraction because

apparently the GOP Senate rule on two-thirds for any new tax allowed continuation of a simple majority for tinkering with existing taxes. 

 

This column's focus on the B&O tax is a topic that came to mind for me as a consultant who, with attorneys and accountants, pays a B&O tax under the "services" category, of .015 percent, basically $15,000 on $1 million of gross revenue, while our clients pay a tax of maybe $2,500, as the manufacturers' .00275 percent rate would impose. As publisher of Puget Sound Business Journal, I paid $3,500 for each $1 million of revenue.

An honest look at a tax structure where an attorney, accountant or consultant could pay a rate two or three times as high as a client they are advising might well provide additional tax revenue as part of creating tax fairness for all businesses.

But across the state tax spectrum, the fairness issue should also be weighed against the reality of why some tax breaks legitimately came about. Thus lawmakers need to evaluate, and perhaps restore at least some of the 20-year-old high-tech B&O tax credit, a tax break for five categories of tech business that expired as of January 1 this year.

It would be a mistake for the lawmakers to succumb to the temptation to merely pocket the nearly $50 million in revenue that the tax break cost the state, rather than seek to evaluate the changing value of the tax break to some of the five tech sectors to which it applied.

The challenge for legislators in evaluating either the B&O tax disparity or the tax break for high tech is in being able to understand the difference between tax breaks important to the economy and tax breaks that are merely the result of good lobbying.

And the manner in which the tax credit came about for high-tech research and development for advanced computing, advanced materials, biotechnology, electronic device technology, and environmental technology is an example of what was once viewed as an important-to-the-economy tax break.

The tax breaks for high-tech companies, both B&O and sales tax credits, were created by a Democratic legislature responding to the goal of creating jobs that came from a Democratic governor, Mike Lowry.

 

 "We were coming out of what was, at that time, the state's worst recession and we needed to attract industries that would produce good-paying jobs," Lowry recalled of the proposal he came up with and pressed through the 1994 Legislature as a way to lure new business to Washington.

 

And for Democratic lawmakers who have since sometimes come to refer to such tax breaks as "tax loopholes," Lowry still responds with his view that they are "incentives" that have permitted high-tech companies to avoid paying state sales tax on new facilities, including equipment.

 

"We were absolutely correct to come up with policies to lure companies to the state that would create high-paying jobs that were basically the jobs of the future," Lowry said.

 

And among those "jobs of the future" that still deserve nurturing is the biotech category, an industry that by all rights should be a third-leg of this state's economic stalwarts but that has lagged for several reasons. Removing the tax incentives on new facilities and equipment would be one more reason.

 

So back to the B&O tax, which actually came into existence in 1933 after the state Supreme Court threw out the income tax that lawmakers had passed in an effort to find new sources of revenue for a financially struggling state. The '33 Legislature adopted the gross receipts tax as a temporary, stop-gap move to balance the state budget.  

But the temporary, as in most legislative "temporary" moves, became permanent, though the rationale for creating B&O special treatment for one industry over another is lost in the antiquity of legislative deal making. But once that bridge was crossed, crafted from some handshake deal between one or more lawmakers and a lobbyist or two, the following special deals were somewhat like kisses: once the first one is bestowed in a relationship, the rest come much more easily.

Now, in a sense, some lawmakers are toying with what would likely be considered a form of tax on income with Democrats expressing an interest in taxing capital gains, saying it would make the state's tax system less regressive, and more fair (that word again).

Sen. Andy Hill, the Republican who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee as is thus the upper chamber's chief budget writer, has put down the capital gains idea, branding the phrase "regressive tax code" as a code-word for getting an income tax.

 

Voters have consistently rejected the idea of a state income tax, but it doesn't take too clever a legislative mind to realize that, even though any tax increase would almost certainly be sent to the voters, there might be a significantly different view of state residents about taxing capital gains than for taxing their own income.

 

And savvy lawmakers have a sense that a far more liberal State Supreme Court faced today with the question of whether a state income tax was unconstitutional or not, might well have a different answer than the one 82 years ago.

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Businessman, education activist Don Nielsen's call for ed overhaul drawing national attention

As the 2015 Legislature looks down the double barrels of a pair of multi-million dollar education-funding challenges, one ordered by the court and the other by the voters, a new book by former Seattle school board president Don Nielsen calling for a major overhaul of the basic structure of education is attracting increasing attention.

Don Nielsen 

Nielsen, a successful businessman who turned his attention to education and began a 20-year role as education activist, including two years traveling the country in search of good ideas and a decade on the Seattle school board, says funding isn't the issue. "It is the system and the people who populate it that need to change."

But the Washington State Supreme Court, in a January 2011 ruling that ordered the legislature to fully fund basic education and last fall held the lawmakers in contempt for failing to comply with that order, says funding IS the answer. Then voters, by a bare majority, in November approved Initiative 1351 to limit class sizes. That brought an additional multi-million-dollar reality to legislative deliberations.

And as the issues relating to education funding come under increasing scrutiny, there is increasing visibility for Nielsen, who seems to be at the epicenter of discussion about the future of basic education in this state, and elsewhere. His book, Every School: One Citizen's Guide to Transforming Education, has become a national focal point in discussions about the future of public education.

The book has led to speeches before a long list of Rotary clubs and other organizations, beginning late last year before the Seattle Rotary Club. Another five rotary talks are scheduled for next month, and radio interviews are occurring on talk shows across the country.  

"Most of what we're hearing is that we need more money and lower class sizes, but we have tried that and it hasn't worked," said Nielsen. "We now spend three times as much per child in inflation-adjusted dollars as we did in 1970 and we also have four times as many adults in our schools with only eight percent more children."  

While Nielsen confides he has little hope that his ideas will ever pass muster before a legislature in this state because of the power of the forces opposed to dramatic change in the public education system, a legislature closely divided politically may decide that a dramatic education-funding change should be accompanied by other dramatic changes.

It's logical that Nielsen would take a businesslike view of analyzing what changes are needed for basic education to work since dramatic success as an entrepreneur over nearly a quarter century preceded his personal commitment to learn about education's needs, and then seek to bring those about.

His business success involved co-founding in 1969 a start-up biological and chemical testing company that he helped grow into the world's largest company in its industry by the time he had taken it public. He then helped guide its acquisition in 1987 by Corning, which kept him on as CEO of the firm, Hazelton Corp., and over the following five years he doubled the company's annual revenue to $165 million.

Newspaper editorialists, policymakers and lawmakers from both parties have begun to suggest that if more money must be spent on education, then perhaps dramatic change in the system itself should be considered.

And the fact that Nielsen is reaching audiences on talk shows in cities across the country suggests that what he describes as an "obsolete" system is facing serious scrutiny in states other than just Washington.

"Basically, my premise is that the system is obsolete and needs radical change," he told me in one of several phone conversations  in recent days. "However, like a failing business, you don't embark on radical change with the people who created the problem in the first place.  So, to fix our schools, we must first fix the people and we must do so at all levels; teaching, leadership and governance."

As a frank and to-the-point kind of a guy who has brought an entrepreneur's focus, innovation and zeal to his pursuit of improving education, Nielsen has stirred critics who were protective of the status quo while attracting respect and support from those who shared his view that the structure of education needed to change.

Interestingly, the latest Elway Poll shows that for the first time in seven years, economic issues are not at the top of the public's wish list for legislative action. Rather it is education.

Stuart Elway, president of Elway Research, says his poll shows that 65 percent of those polled think the Legislature should do as much as possible without cutting other programs or raising taxes, 51 percent think education funding is the first priority and 48 percent says it will be necessary to raise taxes to meet education's funding needs.

Nielsen, a 1960 graduate of the University of Washington, where he was student body president in his senior year, seeks to have education reform seen as an issue that transcends politics.

"Fixing our schools, so they effectively educate every child should not be a partisan issue," he told me.  "I am hopeful that the Republican Party will soon recognize that and take on education as their primary issue.   The Democrats have claimed schools as their issue for the last three decades and our schools have not improved. Time for a change."

The changes that Nielsen espouses boil down to three key steps.

"First, we have to improve the quality of teachers," suggested Nielsen, who says a key first step is eliminating certification laws, which he refers to as "the culprit" because they give "education schools a monopoly over the supply of human capital that can work in our schools."

"Next we must improve leadership," he said. "A quality principal will give you a quality school but certification laws again hinder our ability to hire top leaders for our schools."

We also must address governance, not just leadership. We need high quality, competent people governing our schools.   In urban systems, I would recommend going to appointed school boards or even eliminating them altogether and have the superintendent become part of the mayor's cabinet.  

Nielsen decided, after his decade of schools leadership at the local level, that the necessary changes couldn't be achieved locally. And he suggests the fact No Child Left Behind Act has produced disappointing results, and may be dramatically altered in this Congress, suggests Washington, D.C., isn't the place to drive necessary changes.

"To improve America's schools, we need to do so at the Statehouse," said Nielsen.

Continue reading

NIelsen calls for major education overhaul

As the 2015 Legislature looks down the double barrels of a pair of multi-million dollar education-funding challenges, one ordered by the court and the other by the voters, a new book by former Seattle school board president Don Nielsen calling for a major overhaul of the basic structure of education is attracting increasing attention.

Don Nielsen 

Nielsen, a successful businessman who turned his attention to education and began a 20-year role as education activist, including two years traveling the country in search of good ideas and a decade on the Seattle school board, says funding isn't the issue. "It is the system and the people who populate it that need to change."

But the Washington State Supreme Court, in a January 2011 ruling that ordered the legislature to fully fund basic education and last fall held the lawmakers in contempt for failing to comply with that order, says funding IS the answer. Then voters, by a bare majority, in November approved Initiative 1351 to limit class sizes. That brought an additional multi-million-dollar reality to legislative deliberations.

And as the issues relating to education funding come under increasing scrutiny, there is increasing visibility for Nielsen, who seems to be at the epicenter of discussion about the future of basic education in this state, and elsewhere. His book, Every School: One Citizen's Guide to Transforming Education, has become a national focal point in discussions about the future of public education.

The book has led to speeches before a long list of Rotary clubs and other organizations, beginning late last year before the Seattle Rotary Club. Another five rotary talks are scheduled for next month, and radio interviews are occurring on talk shows across the country.  

"Most of what we're hearing is that we need more money and lower class sizes, but we have tried that and it hasn't worked," said Nielsen. "We now spend three times as much per child in inflation-adjusted dollars as we did in 1970 and we also have four times as many adults in our schools with only eight percent more children."  

While Nielsen confides he has little hope that his ideas will ever pass muster before a legislature in this state because of the power of the forces opposed to dramatic change in the public education system, a legislature closely divided politically may decide that a dramatic education-funding change should be accompanied by other dramatic changes.

It's logical that Nielsen would take a businesslike view of analyzing what changes are needed for basic education to work since dramatic success as an entrepreneur over nearly a quarter century preceded his personal commitment to learn about education's needs, and then seek to bring those about.

His business success involved co-founding in 1969 a start-up biological and chemical testing company that he helped grow into the world's largest company in its industry by the time he had taken it public. He then helped guide its acquisition in 1987 by Corning, which kept him on as CEO of the firm, Hazelton Corp., and over the following five years he doubled the company's annual revenue to $165 million.

Newspaper editorialists, policymakers and lawmakers from both parties have begun to suggest that if more money must be spent on education, then perhaps dramatic change in the system itself should be considered.

And the fact that Nielsen is reaching audiences on talk shows in cities across the country suggests that what he describes as an "obsolete" system is facing serious scrutiny in states other than just Washington.

"Basically, my premise is that the system is obsolete and needs radical change," he told me in one of several phone conversations  in recent days. "However, like a failing business, you don't embark on radical change with the people who created the problem in the first place.  So, to fix our schools, we must first fix the people and we must do so at all levels; teaching, leadership and governance."

As a frank and to-the-point kind of a guy who has brought an entrepreneur's focus, innovation and zeal to his pursuit of improving education, Nielsen has stirred critics who were protective of the status quo while attracting respect and support from those who shared his view that the structure of education needed to change.

Interestingly, the latest Elway Poll shows that for the first time in seven years, economic issues are not at the top of the public's wish list for legislative action. Rather it is education.

Stuart Elway, president of Elway Research, says his poll shows that 65 percent of those polled think the Legislature should do as much as possible without cutting other programs or raising taxes, 51 percent think education funding is the first priority and 48 percent says it will be necessary to raise taxes to meet education's funding needs.

Nielsen, a 1960 graduate of the University of Washington, where he was student body president in his senior year, seeks to have education reform seen as an issue that transcends politics.

"Fixing our schools, so they effectively educate every child should not be a partisan issue," he told me.  "I am hopeful that the Republican Party will soon recognize that and take on education as their primary issue.   The Democrats have claimed schools as their issue for the last three decades and our schools have not improved. Time for a change."

The changes that Nielsen espouses boil down to three key steps.

"First, we have to improve the quality of teachers," suggested Nielsen, who says a key first step is eliminating certification laws, which he refers to as "the culprit" because they give "education schools a monopoly over the supply of human capital that can work in our schools."

"Next we must improve leadership," he said. "A quality principal will give you a quality school but certification laws again hinder our ability to hire top leaders for our schools."

We also must address governance, not just leadership. We need high quality, competent people governing our schools.   In urban systems, I would recommend going to appointed school boards or even eliminating them altogether and have the superintendent become part of the mayor's cabinet.  

Nielsen decided, after his decade of schools leadership at the local level, that the necessary changes couldn't be achieved locally. And he suggests the fact No Child Left Behind Act has produced disappointing results, and may be dramatically altered in this Congress, suggests Washington, D.C., isn't the place to drive necessary changes.

"To improve America's schools, we need to do so at the Statehouse," said Nielsen.

Continue reading

Holiday Greetings

Dear Friends: 

Sharing this re-creation of the art once delivered via wire-service teletype machines to media newsrooms around the nation during the quiet hours of Christmas Eve has become my annual way of delivering holiday greetings to those who have been kind enough to allow Flynn's Harp into their email 'bag' each week. 
   
 
 
 
Holiday teletype art: greetings from communications era past In the days before computers, wire service teletype machines clacked away in newspaper and broadcast newsrooms around the nation and the world, bringing the news from all points to local media outlets.

But in the quiet of the Christmas holiday in years past, in the offices of AP and United Press International, the teletype paper coming from the teletype printers would be graced with holiday art. 

  

For those of us who at an early stage in our careers had a turn with the lonely Christmas Eve or overnight vigil in the UPI offices  as older writers got to spend time with their families, the holiday art created and transmitted by teletype operators is one of the special memories of working for that now-dead company. 

The x's, o's, (or more frequently dollar signs and exclamation marks)  appeared a line at a time on the teletype paper until images of Christmas trees, Santa Claus, holly wreaths, etc., took shape.  

The uniqueness of the tree below is the Christmas greeting delivered in nearly 50 languages. 

Over the years I've been sending this, the art has stirred memories for those among the recipients of this weekly missive who once worked in newspaper or broadcast news rooms and recalled watching those creations emerge onto the rolls of teletype paper.

It also served as a reminder of earlier days for those in other industries who once used teletype machines for transmission of information, including one who recalled the occasional flawed keystrokes that occurred when creation of the art followed holiday parties.

 

Since each year brings new names to the list of those receiving Flynn's Harp, there are some who haven't previously seen the art. For that reason, and because fond memories are served by repetition, here is a the annual sharing of this Christmas art.

    

Happy Holidays!

  

  

 

                                                +
1                                               "X"                                       
                                              "XXX"
                                            "XXXXX"
                                          "GOD JUL"
                                       "BUON ANNO"
                                        "FELIZ NATAL"
                                      "JOYEUX   NOEL"
                                   "VESELE   VANOCE"
                                  "MELE   KALIKIMAKA"
                                "NODLAG  SONA  DHUIT"
                             "BLWYDDYN  NEWYDD  DDA"
                                """""""BOAS FESTAS"""""""
                                       "FELIZ NAVIDAD"
                                  "MERRY CHRISTMAS"
                                " KALA CHRISTOUGENA"
                                 "VROLIJK  KERSTFEEST"
                   "FROHLICHE WEIHNACHTEN"
                              "BUON  NATALE-GODT NYTAR"
                              "HUAN YING SHENG TAN CHIEH" 
                           "WESOLYCH SWIAT-SRETAN BOZIC" 
                         "MOADIM LESIMHA-LINKSMU KALEDU" 
                        "HAUSKAA JOULUA-AID SAID MOUBARK" 
              """""""'N  PRETTIG  KERSTMIS""""""" 
                              "ONNZLLISTA UUTTA VUOTTA" 
                           "Z ROZHDESTYOM  KHRYSTOVYM" 
                          "NADOLIG LLAWEN-GOTT NYTTSAR" 
                         "FELIC NADAL-GOJAN KRISTNASKON" 
                        "S  NOVYM  GODOM-FELIZ ANO NUEVO" 
                        "GLEDILEG JOL-NOELINIZ KUTLU OLSUM" 
                     "EEN GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR-SRETAN BOSIC" 
                    "KRIHSTLINDJA GEZUAR-KALA CHRISTOUGENA" 
                     SELAMAT HARI NATAL - LAHNINGU NAJU METU" 
                    """""""SARBATORI FERICITE-BUON  ANNO""""""" 
                          "ZORIONEKO GABON-HRISTOS SE RODI" 
                      "BOLDOG KARACSONNY-VESELE  VIANOCE " 
                     "MERRY CHRISTMAS  AND  HAPPY NEW YEAR" 
                      ROOMSAID JOULU PUHI -KUNG HO SHENG TEN" 
                      FELICES PASUAS -  EIN GLUCKICHES NEUJAHR" 
                  PRIECIGUS ZIEMAN SVETKUS  SARBATORI VESLLE" 
              BONNE  ANNEBLWYDDYN  NEWYDD DDADRFELIZ  NATAL" 
                          """"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""" 
                                                    XXXXX 
                                                    XXXXX 
                                                    XXXXX 
                                            XXXXXXXXXXXXX


 

 

  

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Concern among Seattle business people that Delta turning from Alaska partner to predator

There's a growing concern among Seattle-area business leaders that they are seeing a once mutually beneficial partner relationship between Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines changing to one in which Delta seems to be moving from partner to predator.  

There is an obvious agreement within the business leadership that losing Alaska would be a significant blow to the economies of Seattle and the state. And that is leading many toward a conviction that the business community can't merely stand on the sidelines to watch to see what the outcome is of a battle between the world's second largest airline and hometown Alaska.  

Thus if those expressing such concerns are accurate, then Seattle will need to shed its "Seattle Nice" image for a time to forcefully take a position in support of Alaska.

"The business community must take sides in this and do so forcefully and visibly and an important part of its message is that Delta is actually not good for Seattle," suggests Joseph Schocken, president of Broadmark Capital, a successful Seattle boutique merchant bank that focuses on emerging companies.  

"Delta is anti-Boeing, and thus anti-Seattle, with both its dollars and its political clout," Schocken said. "With its dollars, it buys Airbus planes rather than Boeing's and with its political clout it opposes the Ex-Im bank that is important to Boeing's success," he added.

As I talked with various people in the business community, there was an expression of the need to have a pro-Alaska effort, even a forceful one, but not an Anti-Delta one, lest that generate sympathy for the Atlanta-based airline since it is a very successful airline that employs a large number of people and successfully serves parts of the region's air-carrier needs.

Yet as each got into the competitive aspects of the issue, comments frequently turned from support of Alaska to negative on Delta.

As business people discuss this Alaska-Delta struggle, there is a logical defense of free-markets competition but a dark view of competitors who turn predators. And I detected growing sense that predator is what Delta's competition with Alaska has devolved into.

One who best summed up the competition issue was John Fluke, whose family's business leadership, investment focus and philanthropic involvements are widely known and respected, who said: "The notion of free markets and competition are absolutely necessary to the success of our economic system and the effort to gain advantage over competitors, ethically pursued, benefits customers."

But Fluke suggested that the current competitive activities amount to Delta "abusing" the definition of competition, saying "its tactics with everything from current pricing to their philanthropic outreach with nonprofits here are likely to last only as long as it takes to drive Alaska into submission."

"If that happens, then airline tickets will eventually cost more, route structures will become less accommodating and Delta's support of important philanthropic causes will be lower and that would be abusing the real meaning of competition," he added.

Woody Howse, whose Cable & Howse Ventures basically launched the venture-capital industry in this region, exemplified the enthusiasm of Alaska supporters when he said "Alaska Airlines is one of the most community minded, customer serving and socially contributing corporations in our region."

But his comments also quickly turned against Alaska's challenger, noting his view that "Today Alaska Air is being attacked vigorously by the Carpet Bagger Delta Airlines, coming to town with Airbus (not Boeing) airplanes and viciously attacking the Alaska Air routes with competing schedules.  Our Northwest Community must band together and support the company that has so supported us through the good as well as difficult times."

    

"With Delta's current actions and apparent ulterior motive in Alaska's hometown hub, engaging in a process intended to squeeze Alaska Airlines with the objective of acquiring, we customers need to be very alert to the probable outcome if Delta is successful," Howse added.

Mike Kunath, principal and founder of Kunath, Karren, Rinne & Atkin LLC, a successful Seattle investment advisory firm, summed it up succinctly as: "Alaska has been a true supporter of the region. Delta never will be."

Herb Bridge, longtime Seattle civic leader and philanthropist as well as chairman and CEO of Ben Bridge Jeweler for several decades before guiding the company into acquisition by Warren Buffet, notes that corporate acquisitions themselves are not evil.

"It is possible for an important local company to be acquired in a way that allows it to retain local control and oversight, as happened with our acquisition by warren Buffet," Bridge said. "But when the acquisition is pursued in a predatory rather than a friendly manner, not only the shareholders of the pursued company but the community it serves are losers. There is nothing beneficial about Delta's pursuit of Alaska."

Alaska CEO Brad Tilden, retired CEO Bill Ayer and board members are reluctant to get into any Delta-bashing conversation, preferring to focus on Alaska positives.

Ayer, who as Alaska chairman and CEO for a decade before retiring in early 2012 guided the carrier through some of the industry's most tumultuous times, told me "The question of whether Alaska could remain independent has been raised for decades."   

"Our response was that a locally based, independent airline was better for customers, the community, employees, and investors. While there were no guarantees of remaining independent, all we could control was our own performance, and our chances were much better if we did a great job for each of those stakeholders," he said.

 

And as Tilden puts it, "The transformation over the last decade has been all about cost. We're trying to balance low fares and lots of service to the destinations (passengers) want, with a strong and successful company that can grow and buy new airplanes and has the capital to add new services."

 

The financial results are impressive as the parent company for Alaska Airlines and its regional sister carrier Horizon Air made a record $508 million profit in 2013, and the stock continued a steep ascent to five times its value from just five years ago.

 

What needs to happen is for Delta CEO Richard Anderson to be convinced by those who know him well, and that includes some in Seattle, that he is risking a serious downside in creating the potential for an in-your-face attitude among Seattle business people on behalf of Alaska.

For as Schocken summed it up: "There needs to be a real corporate campaign to encourage flying Alaska, discouraging flying Delta and make it unpleasant, hurting Delta's bottomline so Anderson decides that not only isn't it going to be as he thought, but shareholders and board members are getting unhappy.'"

     

Evidence that neither Fluke, Howse nor any of those who echo similar sentiments about Delta targeting Alaska are out of line is Delta's own home page where it headlines "Exclusively for Seattle, 2x miles all year long."  

But Delta's sharpest critics could suggest with a smile that what happens when you click on that link on Delta's home page might prophetically point to where Delta would be for Seattle if they were to push Alaska into a merger. The click leads to a page that says "the requested page could not be found."

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A mission of bringing Magic of Christmas to homeless kids with Alaska North Pole flight

For Steve Paul, bringing the Magic of Christmas to a group of about 60 Spokane-area homeless and foster children in the form of a flight to the North Pole is a year-round focus that he undertook 14 years ago to "use the power of Santa and Christmas to bring an over-the-top memory for kids usually consumed with worry."

 

But the added factor that ensures success of the annual Fantasy Flight is the Magic Dust of human caring and compassion that spreads over all those involved with the event, starting with Alaska Airlines, which makes a jetliner and crew and employees of both Alaska and Horizon Air availabl

Steve Paul, 'Elf Bernie' 

e.

 

So late afternoon this Saturday, 65 children, aged 4 to 10, selected by shelters and community programs in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, will board the Alaska 737-900ER at Spokane International Airport, accompanied by their personal elves, for the approximately half-hour flight to the North Pole. Others on board, in addition to the kids and their elves, will be Dave Campbell, new president of Horizon Air, and other representatives of both Alaska and Horizon.  

This is the eighth year that Alaska has operated the flight for Northwest North Pole Adventures, the 501c3 that Paul, a Senior IT Project Manager at Ecova,created and serves as president and CEO. He spends much of the year preparing for the event by working with organizations, gathering sponsors and overseeing details, all on a $200,000 budget that includes in-kind, like the Alaska flight.

Steve Paul with Spokane Mayor David Condon 

So Saturday the children will show up at the airport, meet their "buddy elf" and, with the help of the TSA workers, pass through security despite alarms set off by the metal jingle bells on their clothing. Then they will board Alaska flight 1225, which upon takeoff becomes Santa 1, guided by Paul who, for the day, becomes Bernie, the head Elf.

As the flight nears its conclusion, the passengers will be told to pull the window shades down and chant the magic words that will allow them to land at the North Pole. Then the plane will land on the other side of the Spokane airport to be greeted by Santa, Mrs. Clause, extra elves and a few live reindeer.

A key moment of magic occurs for each child when they have their personal visit with Santa.

As Paul told me, "When we send out invitations to the kids, we have them tell us what they want for Christmas. We take those lists and buy each of them a toy from that list. So as each child tells Santa what he or she wants, Santa can reach into his bag and pull that present out for them. The looks on their faces as he hands it to them is priceless."

Equally priceless is the reaction of Paul and others involved.

 "I know I can't fix the situations in life that have brought these children to the place we find them" he told me. "But I can give them a brain full of amazingly magical memories of a day when they took their first airplane ride, when they touched their first reindeer and had their own elf as best friend."

kids in plane
Kids aboard Santa 1 

Blythe Thimsen, editor of Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living magazine who first alerted me to this amazing community experience five years ago when she served as an elf on that year's flight, says that"from business leaders, to media, to financial support and those who are elves at heart and want to see this organization succeed, support is ever growing."

"With an outpouring of interest and support from volunteers and the community - to the tune of 30 wannabe elves on the wait list, hoping to be assigned a spot as an elf - it is clear that support for Spokane Fantasy Flight continues to grow in the community," she told me.

United Airlines, which has done these North Pole Fantasy Flights in a number of cities since 1992, launched the Spokane flight in 1997 but the United planes didn't take off, merely taxied around the airport. It was while traveling in and out of Spokane around that time that Paul learned of the flight, which has always been amazingly low visibility, and sought to be involved. He not only became involved but took over responsibility for the event in 2000.

 

United continued the Spokane flight until 2007 when the airline failed to assign a plane to the event and Paul turned to Alaska, which not only quickly provided the plane but it's employees asked, "why not take them up for a flight?" So Alaska did.

Since then, the Spokane Fantasy Flight has grown in popularity within the business community, despite remaining little known to the general Spokane population, and has become a source of pride and team building for Alaska and Horizon Air.

To the point where, when I asked Paul if he had the same pilots as in previous years, he said that, in fact, there were a couple of Anchorage-based pilots doing the duty this year but that last year's cockpit crew was trying to buy their way back aboard with "payoff" offers to their replacements, who have remained uninterested!

And little wonder since, as Alaska CEO Brad Tilden, who has been involved in the event first in 2011 when he was still president and once since he assumed the CEO role, put it: "Seeing the effect of this in the eyes of the kids is an amazing experience.

For those who might, for any reason, view this as deluding the children, an elf on one of the flights summed it up best. "If you're a little kid on your first plane ride and your ticket says North Pole, and the shades are drawn, and everyone, including the flight attendants and all the elves are saying the magic words, then who's to say you haven't landed at the real North Pole?"

 

Or as Paul sums it up for the longer-term perspective: "My hope is that the children leave with a stronger sense of belief, not only in the magic of Christmas but in themselves and the possibility of positive things in their future."

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Cheri Marusa, a four-generation Cle Elum Housewife, has become face of citizen activism

Cheri Marusa describes herself simply as a Cle Elum housewife and mother whose roots in Upper Kittitas County go back four generations. But in reality she has quietly, and those who find themselves on the other side of one her causes would say "not always quietly," come to be the face of citizen activism in Washington State.

It's been 15 years since she emerged from that housewife-and-mother role with a campaign to bring enhanced emergency medical services to the Cle Elum area, founding Life Support, which she has served as president since then and helped guide its dramatic impact on not only emergency medical services but enhanced healthcare as well.

Marusa has, in essence, become the cause of causes, launching programs to address challenges ranging from small-town economic development problems to pressing children's issues.

 

Cheri Marusa

Her first cause, Life Support, required funds from the legislature and the effort to get the funds launched her on a path that allowed her to become over the years one of the most familiar faces in the legislative halls and offices. Some lawmakers who were at first resistant to her funding requests, particularly in financially challenging times in the legislature, might describe her as an unrelenting force.  

Her success at attracting legislative support would make the most successful lobbyists envious, although she insists she's not a lobbyist. In fact, because she doesn't draw a salary from any of the organizations she advocates for, she has occasionally wound up sleeping in her car when she has had to overnight in Olympia during legislative sessions.

She had to overcome substantial community opposition when she undertook to create Life Support since physicians at the local Cle Elum clinic feared they'd be put out of business if Marusa's efforts to increase the quality of medical care in Upper County proved successful.  

The Life Support initiative culminated with attracting Swedish Medical Center to open a facility in Cle Elum. And her fund-raising efforts resulted in construction of new fire stations and purchase of life-saving tools for the emergency medical responders.

I first met Marusa in 2003 when I was among the Seattle-area business people she convinced to go on the board of her 501c3 Life Support organization.  

She has sought my advise on several occasions for her initiatives since then, and paid little heed to my counsel of "Cheri, that simply isn't going to happen" and went on to make them happen.

The first of those unlikely successes for which I said "not gonna happen" related to Life Support when her campaign on behalf of emergency medical services wound up with a $2.7 million appropriation at a time of severe financial challenge for the lawmakers.

I had the same advise when she went after lawmakers for a $2 million plus grant for a Junior Achievement Center in Yakima to provide financial literacy programs for young people in a new JA World learning center, a facility that the business community in Yakima supported with additional dollars. The local supporters of the facility, when it was completed, boasted that Yakima was the only small community in which JA has built such a facility anywhere in the country.

Marusa has an earthy air about her, a small-town mother of two daughters who can look in the mirror and chuckle as she describes the woman she sees there as "a well-rounded personality."

  

Her persuasiveness with legislators to support her causes prompted House Speaker Frank Chopp to enlist her support, again as a volunteer, for his One Washington initiative, sending her on the road to visit communities and small towns in the central and eastern parts of the state to learn of issues challenging them. She confided to me that she really hadn't spent much time in other parts of the state until she got involved with One Washington.

And Marusa already has a busy first quarter of 2015 planned. In addition to pressing the Legislature for funding of a couple of projects, since she wants an appropriation to restore an historic building in Roslyn, the small Kittitas County town made famous as the home of the TV series Northern Exposure. She is also tackling an issue opposed by some potent adversaries -- sheriffs and police chiefs from around the state.

She created the Roslyn Renaissance project to guide preservation and renovation of historic commercial buildings and community character, as well as attract business and generate permanent jobs in the old coal-mining community where her husband Rob's father was a miner after bringing his family there from Croatia.

She is also chair of the Roslyn Downtown Association and, along the way, launched the Cle Elum Rotary club.

Her current legislative battle with chiefs and sheriffs is over her campaign to require training for reserve police officers similar to that required for regular law enforcement officers.

"It's okay if reserves do traffic control and the like," she explained. "But if they are going to carry a gun and have arresting authority, they should be no less training than regular officers. Chiefs and sheriffs don't want to incur that cost so they are fighting this."    

Plus she is heading to Nicaragua in February with a number of Seattle Seahawks and other NFL players accompanying her to work in impoverished villages in that country as part of an effort to assist Seattle-based GIVE.

The leader of the NFL crew accompanying her is Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, for whom she recently created and chairs the Jermaine Kearse Foundation, focused, as she describes it, on "engaging and inspiring youth by creating real-life relevance through experiential learning and tying learning to living a healthy lifestyle"

So how did she convince a group of NFL stars to accompany her on a trip to assist the poor in Nicaragua?  

"I merely told them, 'come with me. I want you to do something that will be life changing and you will come back a better person.'" she said.  

It's the same message she has carried for most of her involvements over much of her 55 years.

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